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Changing Digital Consumer Behavior During COVID-19

by Emily Kirk   |   Jun 11, 2020

At Workshop Digital, we have a wide range of clients in different industries and verticals that have been impacted by COVID-19 across different spectrums. It's important to keep in mind that these changes are not stagnant, but fluid and changing, as different government regulations and economic phases take place. However, it's equally important to remember that this is not only due to government regulations, but also because of changing consumer trends.

We recently surveyed our client services team members to get a read on how our clients are responding to these changes. As you’ll read, many of these changes are intuitive—while others vary greatly by client or industry. Here are just a few of our findings and a corresponding action you can take to respond if the trend happens to affect your business.

Trend 1: Changes in Device Behavior

Some of Workshop Digital’s clients have seen a slight increase in the proportion of desktop search volume year-over-year, which is likely attributed to people spending more time at home. That being said, as towns and cities open back up, this could shift again quickly. During this time of fluctuation, it is good to keep a close eye on your device traffic and watch the government economic phases in your targeted or high value geos.

We should note that this does vary greatly by industry and client. For both our paid and SEO client accounts, mobile is still the dominant traffic source. For our paid accounts, desktop maintains the highest conversion rates for our client set.

Action: Check out your device traffic and conversion rates year-over-year. Keep a closer eye here as economies open up in your high value geos.

Trend 2: Fluctuations in Conversion Rates & Conversion Volume

Many of our lead generation clients—such as dentists—have seen a decrease in conversion rates during COVID-19. Some of these decreases can be correlated to different search patterns and intent. Similarly, other clients have seen decreases in search volume, which in turn, has driven a decrease in conversion volume. With unemployment being high and Americans being more conservative in their spending, businesses are bringing in less revenue. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported that American’s average savings rates are at an all time high of 33% in April 2020, as compared to a March 2020 savings rate of 12.7%.

Unfortunately, many of our hardest hit clients are local businesses, while national and pure play digital have fared better. Clients that have thrived and seen conversion rates increase drastically include an online craft supply store, a local window replacement store, online learning providers, and essential local services such as plumbing and HVAC.

Action: Review conversion rates across your organic and paid digital accounts. Consider the value of maintaining visibility in your paid accounts as competition and CPCs are potentially lower.

Trend 3: Different Click to Conversion Curves for Paid Ads

We have also seen fluctuations in click to conversion curves. In some instances, we are seeing an elongated click to conversion curve. In other words, users are clicking on a paid ad and taking longer to order or generate a lead. In other instances, conversions are happening immediately, while historically, there was a longer click to conversion curve. We are even seeing both of these scenarios play out within single client accounts, depending on the service or product line.

Action: Look at your conversion window and attribution modeling. Evaluate if conversions are falling off because of your conversion window being too short for a longer conversion cycle.

Trend 4: Shift in Micro Conversion Behaviors & Values

Many businesses have also seen their customers exhibit different conversion behaviors since the start of COVID-19. As could be expected, many clients have seen a decrease in Google My Business actions, especially direction clicks, and a corresponding decrease in foot traffic. In turn, consumers are shifting to virtual experiences, especially in the real estate and home building markets.

In some instances, we have seen an increase in phone calls. After speaking with these clients, we determined this can be attributed to customers checking on business hours and availability, not an actual increase in business revenue. Most clients are seeing a decrease in phone calls which likely corresponds with people staying home and putting off non-essential activities such as routine dental visits.

Another interesting shift we have seen for some of our clients is the change in value of certain micro conversions. We work with our clients to determine the dollar value correlated to each type of micro conversion. We do this by tying business revenue directly back to the click and micro conversion, or by extrapolating and applying what we know about our client’s conversion rates, average order value, or lifetime value. Recently, some of these values have shifted due to changes in customers' conversion behaviors. For example, while one of our ecommerce clients saw an increase in email sign-ups, a longer conversion timeline led to a decrease in the value of the email micro conversion.

Action: Evaluate any changes to the volume of your micro conversions and the actual revenue they’re currently driving for your business. Even if the value of your micro conversions have shifted since COVID-19, be conscious of the changes you may implement, as micro conversions are still a valuable indicator of customer interest and intent.

Trend 5: B2B Blurs Into the Weekend

B2B advertisers are seeing some interesting shifts in consumer behavior, including conversions generated on the weekend. This is likely because more people are working from home and defined work hours are blurred. In other words, weekend consumer behavior is now similar to weekday consumer behavior. B2B advertisers should consider how they are targeting businesses. As many people are working from home, historical geographic targeting may be less accurate. This will likely impact cities where workers are now in different regions and zip codes since workers no longer have a commute to the office.

Action: Check your day-of-week and time-of-day performance. If you have historically paused your paid ads on the weekend, you may want to run a test to see if you can pick up some traction on the weekends.

What does this all mean?

As the world faces a new reality that is changing how many people shop and engage in services, advertisers need to pay attention to shifts in consumer behaviors. Historic and year-over-year data may not even be indicative of current consumer trends and habits. Instead, regular performance checks with some deep dives can help advertisers ensure they are getting the most out of their digital advertising investments.

Don’t forget about the changes in how people are searching. As we've reviewed, Google Trends can help you understand search behavior, whereas search query report reviews provide insight into behaviors and intent. By keeping up with these changes, advertisers can gain a competitive advantage and work to meet the needs of consumers in an ever-changing economic environment.

portrait of Emily Kirk

Emily Kirk

Emily is passionate about developing data-driven paid digital marketing strategies to grow revenue and profit for businesses. Over her 9 year tenure in paid digital marketing, she has managed both Fortune 500 and IR Top 150 accounts, including clients with annual budgets ranging from $10K to $25M. At Workshop Digital, Emily manages a team of nine analysts to create strategic value through impactful digital marketing. Emily spoke at Search Marketing Expo in 2015 about seasonality and competition in the paid search landscape. Since then, she has spoken frequently about proper audience targeting and valuation. Emily holds a degree in Marketing with a concentration in Process Management and Consulting from The College of William and Mary.